Making the decision to move out of your rented property and into another is not one that ought to be taken lightly. There’s so much to consider, from finding a new home in a suitable location to working out your priorities when it comes to garden space, number of bathrooms and other such amenities.
And that’s all without mentioning your need to weigh up the financial side of such a move, and a huge factor in that is your successful retrieval of the security deposit put down on the previous property. Recent government research shows that the number of households in the UK’s private rented sector increased by 63% between 2007 and 2017 while it is predicted that, at the current rate, tenants who rent privately are set to make up more than half (50.7%, to be precise) of the housing market in 20 years’ time.
Our own survey of more than 20,000 tenants revealed that 12.5% had seen deposits withheld by their landlord. As the proportion of renters compared to owners continues to grow, it stands to reason that a greater number of the population will lose out on some, or potentially all, of their security deposits if they fail to take precautions against it.
This could, of course, have a hugely detrimental effect when it comes to accessing the funds to put down a deposit on your next rental property. Nobody wants to be in that position, so we’ve put together this handy guide to provide advice on the common reasons for deposit deductions and, more importantly, what you can do to improve your chances of receiving your money back in full.
Why might you lose your deposit?
Landlords are most likely to withhold all or part of your deposit when they feel the property needs work to restore it to the state it was in when you began your tenancy. Most frequently, they will make deductions if there is cleaning required – whether that be to the floors, walls, kitchens or bathrooms.
Alternatively, you could be charged for any damages to furniture, fixtures or fittings while, if the landlord feels some redecoration is required, above and beyond what may be considered “wear & tear” - they may also withhold part of your deposit. Other factors that may affect the return of your deposit are any missing items or outstanding rent or bill payments, so how can you ensure this fate does not befall you? Our top tips can provide the answer…
Clean, clean, clean…and clean some more
Our research shows that, of those who have had their deposits withheld, 39% of the time it was down to cleaning work being required after they’d moved out. The easiest way to mitigate this issue is to give the property a thorough going over before you leave, but problems can arise as the cleanliness of any room can be very subjective – one person’s spotless is another person’s shabby.
Put simply, it’s best to do too much rather than not enough! A deep, exhaustive clean will help to avoid disagreements with your landlord or letting agent, as well as increase your chances of receiving a positive reference to take forward to your next property.
Below, we’ve put together some useful pointers to help you take on that major clean:
If possible, don’t leave your cleaning until the day you move out! Begin the preparation well in advance, perhaps by way of making a list of those areas that need the most attention. Unfortunately, these tend to be used more frequently, such as kitchens and bathrooms, so you may have to accept that these rooms will need tackling last. But, before then, you can get on with sprucing up those less-visited parts of the home such as the spare bedroom or the cupboard under the stairs.
Details, details, details
When trying to retrieve your deposit in full, it’s worth keeping a keen eye on the less obvious features around the home. For example, your landlord may not take kindly to filthy kitchen drawers – even if the surfaces are spotless – while skirting boards, light switches and windowsills are all well worth your attention.
Think about calling in a professional
If you’re looking to keep your move as hassle-free as possible, calling on the services of a professional cleaner could help to relieve a lot of the stress around regaining your deposit. Some tenancy agreements require a professional clean once your time is up, although the Tenant Fees Act means landlords and letting agents can no longer ask for this within contracts signed after 1st June 2019. You may decide that calling on outside help is too expensive, however, and the money saved may be put to better use on your next deposit.
Clean inside and out
Be careful not to focus all your attention on cleaning the interior of the property. If your home has a garden, make sure you leave that as you found it – perhaps with a mown lawn, tidy flower beds and a swept patio. And, if you’ve kept pets, cleaning up after them is a sure-fire way to get you onside with your landlord.
As well as a deep clean, it’s worth scouring your home for any damages that may have occurred during your time there. Any wall scuffs, broken door hinges or wobbly chair legs can often prove a simple fix and fixing them can go a long way to ensuring you recoup all of your deposit.
So, give those walls a lick of paint, replace those lightbulbs and fill the holes where you hung that favourite painting and you’ll have the place looking good as new! As with the cleaning process, you might consider hiring a professional to help you with these tasks, but they can prove costly and often the smaller jobs are surmountable with a can-do attitude and some elbow grease!
Conduct a careful inventory
Moving into a new home is incredibly exciting, and we understand that sometimes the last thing on your mind when you first get the keys is to take a good look around and make a checklist of any damaged or dirty areas. But it will be more than worthwhile in the long run, especially when it comes to getting your deposit back.
In England, whilst an inventory can no longer be charged for under the Tenant Fees Act, it’s important to make sure you and your landlord or letting agent agree on any pre-existing damages and do so in writing, so you can be confident you won’t be responsible for any pre-existing damage when the time comes to move out and gain a refund on your deposit.
Take extra precautions
An inventory is just one of the essential tasks to help you retrieve your full deposit at the end of your tenancy. Here are a few others:
When you first move in, it’s worth making your way through the home and taking photographs and add these to the inventory, so you have an accurate record of the state of the property when you arrived. That way, when you come to move out, you’ll have irrefutable evidence to show your landlord and any disputes should be quickly nipped in the bud.
Tenancy liability insurance was designed to cover accidental damage to your landlords items throughout a tenancy – which can protect tenants against deposit deductions
We understand that accidents happen, and sometimes things can get broken by mistake. By taking out Tenancy liability insurance, you’ll be covered for accidentally damaging your landlord’s furniture, fixtures and fittings. Without this insurance, you will have to pay for the cost of any repair work from your own funds, or it likely would come out of your deposit when you leave.
When it comes to your own belongings, taking out tenants content insurance can also be hugely beneficial. Your landlord is not responsible for any damage to your own personal property and forking out to get anything fixed could affect your ability to put down a deposit the next time you decide to move.
Read your Tenancy Agreement
We all want to make the home feel like our own space, even if it is a rental, but be careful before making any changes to your property. Read your lease carefully and work out your landlord’s policy when it comes to alterations – some will allow you to go as far as redecorating, while others will want you to maintain the status quo.
Communication is key
The crucial concept underpinning all of these points is maintaining an open and honest relationship with your landlord or letting agent.
A huge part of that is paying your rent and bills on time, keeping to the pre-agreed schedule and speaking immediately to your landlord or agent about any issue or problem – whether it be your wish to make changes, alerting them to faulty appliances or discussing the terms of your agreement. That way, you both know where you stand and a solution can be found swiftly and simply. Most good landlords want to know if there’s a problem, so they can fix it right away. Allowing an issue to continue without reporting it i.e. a leaky sink, may result in more damage in the long run and more expense to put it right, so be sure to report as soon as an issue occurs.
The Future – Deposit Passporting
With more than 4 million people currently living in privately rented properties, the need for an adequate deposit to put down on your next place is a key consideration to many people. To that end, the government are considering proposals for deposit passports, which would allow you to directly transfer your funds from one landlord to the next, meaning you’ll avoid having to dig deep into your bank for another large chunk of cash while you wait for your initial down payment to be refunded.
All of which is potentially great news for tenants and, if you’re someone who is looking to switch homes in the near future, hopefully our top tips will help you recoup all of your deposit and ensure the moving process goes as smoothly as possible.